When we think of good zoos, we tend to think of the enrichment they bring to people–learning about animals, preserving endangered species, observing them and falling in love with them in a safe environment.
What we don’t always think about, and by “we” I mean lay people, visitors, is the enrichment of the animals themselves.
Animals are people too! (They’re not. But they need the same types of stimulation we do.)
It may not be top of mind for you and me, but it definitely is for the keepers at the Nashville Zoo, who recently took their flock of Chilean flamingos on a field trip.
That’s right. The crimson birds checked out Madam Tussauds at Opry Mills.
A blog post on the Zoo’s website explains that animal enrichment, implemented under the guidance of the Behavioral Husbandry Curator, should meet one or more of several categories:
Cognitive, social, food, physical habitat, and sensory.
I’d say this sort of field trip falls into most of those categories!
The birds are also part of Nashville Zoo’s Animal Ambassador program.
Not only do the flamingos take walks around the zoo, greeting guests and checking out the other wildlife, but they sometimes participate in the “Wildlife on Wheels” program in the local community, partnering with classrooms, libraries, and scout troops to:
“emphasize compassion for all living things and a greater understanding of wildlife and wild places.”
When WKRN interviewed Jessica Knox, an Animal Ambassador team member, for their recent Zoopalooza piece, she explained:
“You never know when we are going to pop up with a fun animal friend to see.”
The spunky birds that checked out Madam Tussauds were named with a pepper theme:
“Poblano, Aji, Ancho, Pimento, Ghost, Jalapeño, Habanero – we got the whole bunch.”
And they reportedly had a great time on their adventure.
“They liked hanging out with Elton John. They definitely like getting to look at Carrie Underwood, Reba. They are very curious about all the celebrities that are here.”
What I really want to know is whether they will recognize the real Carrie Underwood if she visits them at the Nashville Zoo the next time she’s in town!
The field trip wasn’t just a great time for the flamingos, though.
Stephanie Vitale, the Madam Tussauds Marketing Manager, told News Channel 2:
“It’s a really awesome visual to watch them walk around and investigate the wax figures. It’s a really great pairing.”
The event was timed especially for National Pink Flamingo Day, and you can see some additional footage from Madam Tussauds here:
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Maybe bring them to a Nashville SC game next, guys!
What do you think? Should the Zoo take the flamingos more places? Share your ideas in the comments.